Four weeks after faulty sensor data led a 737 Max jet to crash in Indonesia last year, a high-ranking Boeing Co. executive raised and dismissed the possibility of a bird collision triggering a similar sequence of events that could cause a second accident.

U.S. aviation authorities increasingly believe that a version of that scenario, described by Boeing

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 executive Mike Sinnett at a November meeting with American Airlines pilots, may have led to the Ethiopian Airlines crash nearly four months later, according to officials familiar with the details. The crash happened after a sensor sent faulty data — possibly due to a bird strike — causing an automated flight-control system known as MCAS to misfire and repeatedly push the nose of the plane down.

At the meeting, Sinnett, vice president of product strategy, expressed confidence that well-trained pilots following established procedures could safely respond to a potential repeat of such equipment trouble, according to a recording of the meeting, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. He also said he felt “absolutely” confident that heightened pilot awareness of potential dangers further reduced the chances of another accident.

Now, Ethiopian Airlines is pushing back against criticism of its pilots by complaining the plane maker didn’t do enough to warn them. The carrier suggests that Boeing’s failure to provide functioning cockpit alerts about problems with sensors made it more difficult for the Ethiopian crew to recognize the hazards they confronted before the second Max accident in March.

An expanded version of this report appears on

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